An Open Letter To People That Will Never Start A Company

Dear Citizen:

If you’re not an entrepreneur, let us start off by saying congratulations on your sanity. Only the truly demented and innately masochistic actually take the leap. Following ‘the path’: college, job, benefits, family, suburbs, retirement, death – is healthy, normal, responsible, and safe; all good qualities in-and-of themselves. Wanna know a secret? Us entrepreneurs are jealous of you. Very. Very. Jealous. You have things that we don’t, nor ever will.

If you are to take nothing away from this letter, take away this: we need you.

Pollination, the cycle of life, the food chain, economic philosophy – it’s all based on different kinds of people, animals, and things working in harmony for a common goal. Without bees there would be no flowers. Without women, there’d be no men. Without the poor, there’d be no rich.

Entrepreneur, or non-entrepreneur, we all have a mutual interest: a love of our cities (whether that’s Tulsa or Kansas City or both). It’s evident everywhere we look. The pride oozing out of our sports stadiums as we cheer on Besler, Gordon, or Charles; the amount of money we raise to support our fountains or parks; the frequency for which we pull up to a stop light and the car next to us is rappin’ TechN9ne lyrics. 


A job is like a tree. Although trees take a long time to grow, without them we’d all be dead. So the obvious advice is to create more trees, as well as to protect the ones we do have. But remember, we can’t have trees without first having seeds.

Startups, risk takers, change makers – those are the seeds. They’re the things that grow into flourishing businesses. The types of businesses that hire people, pay taxes, and solve giant problems that no single person ever could. Without them your kids wouldn’t have schools. You’d have no hospitals. There would be no policemen, doctors, lawyers. Your parents and friends would have no jobs. There would be no restaurants, no beer, no sports teams – nothing. Those things, all by definition, were started by entrepreneurs. All of it. Everything can be traced back to an entrepreneur. Or, at the very least an entrepreneurial way of looking at the world.

Every private job is credited to a founder of some sort. The hospital that pays the doctors whom might save your life was started by an entrepreneur. The attorney that got you out of that sticky situation, works for a law firm that was started by an entrepreneur. The teacher that molds our next generation of leaders is paid by a school, that was started by an entrepreneur.

Every public job can be traced back to entrepreneurship as well. The policemen who protect us; the DMV and post office that does nothing; the roads we use to get to our friends’ homes; the politicians that represent us; are all paid with taxes. Taxes that are either paid from a salary, which come from a job, which was created by an entrepreneur; or paid by business taxes which were started by entrepreneurs.

technineentrepreneurEvery photographer, painter, dancer: they all exchange services for money – even making the arts an entrepreneurial endeavor. TechN9ne is every bit entrepreneur as he is musician – and we’re confident he’d admit that, and be proud of it – as he should. Artists also use equipment created by entrepreneurs, and distribution channels created by entrepreneurs (galleries, social media, Etsy). No one is safe from entrepreneurial economic shrapnel.

Growing up we’re taught – either by society, school, or our family – to worship trees. These doctors. These lawyers. These politicians. These rockstars. These professional athletes. These trees represent the beautiful forest that we call home. We, as BetaBlox, also worship these trees; for we’re in the business of producing tees, if we didn’t admire them, we wouldn’t create them.

So what’s the problem?

tulsa-entrepreneurshipNot everyone can or should be an entrepreneur. But those of us that are, need your help. We need you to be our cheerleaders. We need you to be our friends. We need you to be our therapists. We need you be our optimists, not our naysayers. We need our teachers to show admiration for entrepreneurship as much as they do “traditionally good jobs”.  

There are two requisites of a vibrant City of Founders™. First, we need our non-entrepreneurs to lend a helping hand in whatever ways they can. Try our products. Promote our services. Support locally crafted things that come out of small business incubators. Secondly, stop looking at entrepreneurs like we are unemployed. Stop treating us like we’re crazy. Don’t give us guilt trips when we have to sacrifice time with you to build our businesses. We need you to treat entrepreneurs with the same level of admiration as you do the people who protect you, the people whom you study, the people whom you watch on television.

You enjoy Kauffman Stadium? We need more Kauffmans.

Are you proud of 36°North? We need more Kaisers and Taylors.

You need help articulating to your spouse what your heart says, but your mouth can’t? Well, we need more Halls.

You enjoy our Shuttlecocks? You enjoy having a safe place to put your money? Well, we need more Kempers.

Seeds are ugly. Larva is ugly. Caterpillars are ugly. Almost all startups are just as ugly. We have no momentum. We’re constantly making mistakes. We have no money, no customers, no significant press – we’re just downright ugly. We need you to celebrate this ugliness. We need you to not scoff at it. We need you to put on an Oscar-worthy face when you see us bump it up to this level of ugly. You don’t understand how badly your words and faces of disgust at our ugliness hurts. If we quit, the beautiful vision that we can see, and you can’t, will never be realized. And quite frankly, that hurts you more than us.

Over the years our business incubator has helped over one hundred founders get off the ground with a higher likelihood of success. We spend much of this time helping them with emotional consultation versus business consultation. We see tears on a weekly basis, and it’s never from a partnership falling through, or a customer that fired them. It’s from their wife or husband that is divorcing them because of their startup. It’s from their friends alienating them because they have increasingly different interests and time schedules. It’s from their parents that are constantly pressuring them to quit and get back on the ‘right path.’ We sit back and we watch our founders as they’re treated like drug addicts (we’ve seen three interventions staged to get their son/daughter to quit their startup). Yet these same people would put a second mortgage on their home to help their child get through medical school.business-incubators

They want them to quit, or not start at all, so they can go to more Royals games with them; take their spouse on more vacations; or get a more secure job to prevent the ups-and-downs that inevitably come from innovation. Ironically, all of these things wouldn’t be possible in the first place if it wasn’t for an entrepreneur. Remember, we built the stadiums and paid for the ballplayers. We built the airplanes that get you to the resorts; resorts that we’re founded by yet another entrepreneur. We created the secure jobs that feed the majority of the families in our great cities. Shoot, we created America – they were called FOUNDING fathers for a reason.

We have a calling. We can’t explain it. It is crazy, and weird, and risky – at first you must sacrifice a little with us; but at the end of the day it’s for you.

(Photo Credit – Loudwire)

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